News broke last night that Justin Fields, Georgia’s number-two quarterback behind Jake Fromm, is considering a transfer. Initial reports indicated that he had decided to transfer, but follow-ups this morning have softened that somewhat. Still, from Fields’ perspective, a transfer makes some sense for the second overall recruit from the 2018 class who, thus far, has not overtaken Fromm and probably wants– and would receive– a starting opportunity at another top-tier program.
If Fields does leave after this season, he will be the second highly regarded QB to depart Athens under the Kirby Smart regime. Former starter Jacob Eason left after he lost the job to Fromm in the 2017 season, transferring to Washington (in his home state). He had to sit out the 2018 season, though he was allowed to practice with the Huskies and play on the scout team. Although Washington coach Chris Peterson told Eason during his high-school recruitment that, if Eason “ever needed to or had the opportunity to come home, he would have a place for” Eason, there obviously is no guarantee of a starting job for him in Seattle. In fact, a report yesterday shows that Eason will face a challenge from a former high-school rival, Dylan Morris, who will enroll early to begin the competition with Eason this spring. While the Seattle Times regards Eason as the presumptive starter– “of course”– for 2019, the report also notes that Eason will be one of five scholarship quarterbacks on campus this spring.
Even if Fields doesn’t have to sit out a year, something he obviously hopes to avoid even if it isn’t clear how he would do so under current NCAA rules, Eason’s situation should serve as a reminder that there are no certainties in college football.
The rest of us can occupy the moments between bowl games trying to guess if and, probably more significantly, where Fields might transfer. Some reading the tea leaves are seeing early indications that Fields is setting his sights on Columbus.
UPDATE: Fields has taken the necessary step to commence the transfer process. Coaches at other schools now are free to recruit him to join their programs without having to receive permission from UGA. It apparently is possible that the SEC still could restrict Fields’ ability to transfer within the conference, however.
UPDATE: Fields is transferring to Ohio State. The immediate reports do not indicate whether he’ll have to sit out a year, but I think that’s the reasonable expectation absent extraordinary circumstances.